Thursday, February 7, 2013

Religion and State in Israel - February 7, 2013 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Rabbi Seth Farber said the unwillingness by both the Interior Ministry and Chief Rabbinate to trust Nina’s three converting rabbis is a harbinger of worse things to come.

“It makes it clear that the Rabbinate,” which the ministry consulted in this case, “plans to review almost every Orthodox conversion ever performed in the U.S.” — should the convert wish to live or be married in Israel.

American Orthodox rabbis “ought to be up in arms over this latest development and formulating a strategy for how to address this latest round of disenfranchisement,” Farber said.

The agencies’ refusals are especially galling, Farber said, given that ITIM sued the Interior Ministry in Israel’s High Court in 2011 and ultimately extracted a written commitment from the ministry that it would not to consult the Rabbinate on issues relating to aliyah except in “rare circumstances.”

This isn’t one of those circumstances, Farber said.

“They committed to the courts and to the Knesset that the Rabbinate wouldn’t be involved, and now they’ve backed out of their agreement,” Farber noted.

Dear Rabbi Gold,

I’m writing you today to beg for more of your patience. I know you and your congregation, Birkat Shalom, believed that winning an unprecedented verdict in May 2012 meant that you would receive a state salary like all male Orthodox rabbis in the Gezer region. 

Our whole movement in Israel and abroad celebrated this achievement; however it is now clear to me that the celebrations were premature.

We have just learned that the state decided NOT to award you a salary for 2012 because you worked only part time as Birkat Shalom’s rabbi.  This is spectacular chutzpa.  The only reason you worked part time was that there were no financial means to pay you for a full-time position.

But I know, as everyone does, that you give much more than full-time; you give your all.  The rule that only full-time rabbis will be compensated by the state is an invention by government bureaucrats wishing to circumvent the court’s verdict.

The High Court of Justice demanded on Thursday that Rishon Lezion Chief Rabbi Yehuda David Wolpe explain why he sends couples seeking to register for marriage to a private company for clarifications about their Jewish ancestry.

ITIM, a religious rights lobbying group, filed a petition with the court against Wolpe and the Am Levadad company earlier this week. They have till March 10 to respond.

“It is unconscionable for a municipal rabbi not to accept the authority of a rabbinical court,” said ITIM director and Orthodox rabbi Seth Farber. “It’s an outrage that municipal and state taxes go to pay his salary, and the State of Israel needs to have normal marriage registration bureaus which are not controlled by renegade rabbis.

By Shalom Hammer
Rabbi David Stav: “What Halacha dictates that a young couple seeking to get married must be treated harshly?
What Halacha compels a resident of Beersheva studying in Tel Aviv University to register with the Rabbinate in Beersheva when Tel Aviv is infinitely more convenient for him/her?
What Halacha prohibits accommodating the schedule of young people seeking to register for marriage?
What Halacha compels a young couple to open their file exactly 90 days before the wedding instead of six months if that better suits them?
Why can’t we assist the immigrants from the Former Soviet Union? Yes, many of them must prove their Jewish roots but instead of throwing a list of demands at them, why not use the Chief Rabbinate’s vast resources and connections around the world to facilitate that process? It would be in the interest of all”.

Rabbi Dov Halbertal: I am speaking about the representatives of the different groups. Bennett has nothing to do with being religious, just like Lapid. He is the same. We are not dealing here with the individuals however, but the groups they represent.

The issue is the Chief Rabbinate and religion and state. Rav Stav comes to ‘repair Yiddishkheit’ with new ideas regarding giyur and what to do before marriage. He speaks about Rav Ovadia and ‘those’ who do not permit Rav Ovadia to speak out. “Those sources” was Maran Rav Elyashiv, the leading posek of the generation. Like I said, Rav Stav seeks to change Halacha.

We hear the jingles supporting Rabbi Stav’s candidacy. Why are there jingles for him and not Rav Lau for example? Because Tzohar rabbis are liberal, modern and reform, and they belong to the State of Tel Aviv, not here with us, in Yerushalayim.

“I definitely see an opportunity for change, as the balance on issues of religion has changed,”said Mickey Gitzin, a pro-pluralism activist who was deputy director of the election campaign for the left-wing Meretz party. “Yair Lapid has taken away the balancing position of Shas. This buys an opportunity.”

Anat Hoffman said that she is “positive and optimistic” about the cause of civil marriage. And despite her tense relationship with the Haredi community, she described the Yesh Atid’s Haredi lawmaker, Dov Lipman, as “amazing” and “one very rare ultra-Orthodox rabbi.”

When it comes to increasing state funding for Reform and Conservative synagogues and religious movements … Netanyahu’s Likud party, however, is expected to approve the money. “This is going to be the easiest bone for Netanyahu to throw,” predicted Uri Regev, president and CEO of Hiddush, an organization that pushes for pluralism.

According to Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev, the fact that an overwhelming majority among Likud Beiteinu voters supports a government that will advance freedom of religion and an equal share of the burden shows that "the era in which haredi parties were perceived as natural coalition partners is over."

Interview with Rachel Azaria

Q: What do you think is really behind the suspension?

Rachel Azaria: People want ulpana [religious public girls’ high school] girls not to be out there. They want them to be segregated and to stay within their own tribe, so to speak. Someone who wants to cross boundaries and share and collaborate with another tribe can be considered a threat. People get scared and punish this person to try to bring things back to the way they were.

Ophir is crossing boundaries and trying to be part of something larger, more pluralistic and collaborative. Young people like her don’t want to live with these fences anymore.

By Rabbi Jason Miller

I understand the need for modesty laws in religion and I appreciate any interpretation of any religion that strives for modesty. 

However, these modesty laws must be kept in check. In Judaism we run the risk of taking these laws too far and then in an effort to be modest, the misinterpretation of the laws cause immoral acts. 

Banning a female high school student from singing on a reality TV show is certainly an example of this. Ben-Shetreet is a talented young girl with a beautiful voice. 

Suspending her from school for two weeks in the name of her religion for doing nothing wrong will have negative effects for her and countless other young woman who want to embrace Judaism; not be shunned because of it.

By Avram Mlotek

The seemingly brave rabbis in the Modern Orthodox community say the prohibition applies to sexualized singing only. There are those who even say the law causes such emotional pain it alienates women from religiosity altogether. All of these positions are made by male rabbis and intended for male listeners. Where are women voices in this conversation today?

A halt to haredi exemption from national service should not be motivated by hatred, prejudice or a desire to take revenge. Shas and UTJ should be made partners in the decision-making process.

But if their leaders are unwilling to rise to the occasion, a more egalitarian approach to sharing in civic duties should be worked out and implemented without them.

If Naftali Bennett fails to consult the rabbinic leadership before deciding his position on military conscription for yeshiva students, the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi can say goodbye to his political career, a senior rabbi in the religious-Zionist community said Monday.

Rabbi Tzefania Drori, the municipal rabbi of Kiryat Shmona, was speaking to Galei Israel, a regional radio station that serves the West Bank settlements. Speaking on behalf of the rabbis Drori said the leaders of Habayit Hayehudi "know full well that we have to back them because without our support there’s no politics. That’s why they have to listen. There’s no way any of them can make [their own] agreements."

The Haredim waived the benefits inherent in army service, but grew from a small minority to a major social and political force with the help of government funding for yeshivas and child allowances, while also joining the settlement project to benefit from subsidized housing.

By Giora Eiland

The State has two interests: The first and most important interest is to increase the ultra-Orthodox community's participation in the job market.

… The second interest is to reduce inequality. This can be achieved only if the State significantly shortens reserve duty for combat soldiers, which would necessitate the creation of additional regular army combat units.

Enlisting all haredim just for the "principle of the matter" may create expensive recruitment tracks, and the benefit of these tracks would not outweigh their cost. This would also do nothing to ease the real burden.

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has urged President Shimon Peres to find a solution to the law requiring yeshiva students to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, warning it would cause a rift in the nation.

Comparing it to “the unraveling of a ball of wool,” Efraim Halevy said the concept of sharing the burden is profound and touches on many “interconnected” aspects of Israeli society, like “the economy, the demand for gainful employment, the role of women in society, rules of conduct in the public domain” and how to resolve the Jewish status crisis for hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants who live in Israel but are not Jewish according to halacha, or religious law.

He said “it is no longer possible to put off” issues affecting so many citizens living in limbo in terms of their Jewishness, and that Jerusalem, however reluctant to deal with these delicate religious and political matters, must make “courageous decisions.”

It is not tolerable, he said, for Russian-speaking IDF soldiers to be denied burial in military cemeteries in Israel or for would-be converts to be prevented from joining the Jewish people because of the increasingly stringent standards of the Chief Rabbinate.

By Rabbi Moshe Grylak

In my humble opinion -- and, I believe, in the opinion of gedolei Yisrael -- what we have here is no less than an existential threat to the chareidi community in particular and the State of Israel in general. This is predicated on the deeply-held belief, rooted in the Torah, the Gemara, and the assurances of great Torah leaders of all generations, that Torah study literally shields the Jewish People from harm.

"Religious and traditional Jews will be able to watch soccer games, go shopping, see shows and take part in Israeli leisure culture," he said. "The fact that the religious population, which is generally busy with housework [to prepare for Shabbat], would be able to go shopping on Sunday is important."

Jewish Home officials said that the request was a “social initiative” that would benefit Sabbath-observant families, who would have a day off to do non-Shabbat activities together like traveling or visiting museums. Moreover, “such an initiative may also lead to a longer school day during the week, and thus help women return to the workplace.”

The source further said that "the initiative is likely to lead to an extended school day during the rest of the week, in a desire to facilities women integration into the workforce; as well as foster religious publics' integration into Israeli leisure cultural and activities," which had been unavailable to those who observe Shabbat."

The number of unwed Israeli couples living together is growing, according to a Central Bureau of Statistics report released yesterday, although they still constitute only 5 percent of all couples sharing a household.

According to Dyonna Ginsburg, the Jewish Agency’s director of Jewish service learning, “there’s no need for program providers and funders to present a rose-colored version of Israel to our young people.

“Quite the contrary, we should be looking for additional ways to present Israel as it really is. Immersive Jewish Service-learning (IJSL) participants have not been shying away from Israel based on their time there. They are clearly strengthening their connections to [the country], their heritage and the Jewish people,” she said.

LIVE WEBINAR: Us and Them: Intersections In Israeli Society, with Dr. Tal Becker, Dr. Einat Wilf, Former Member, Israeli Knesset, Tomer Persico, Tel Aviv University, Feb. 6, 2012.

From Shalom Hartman Institute Conference on a Jewish-Democratic Israel. 
This is raw video. The session begins about 30:00 into the program. An edited version will be posted soon.

82.9% of Israeli teenagers define themselves as Zionist, while only 15.8% define themselves as non-Zionist, according to a new MarketWatch poll conducted for the Zionist Council of Israel.

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - February 7, 2013 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

By Amir Mizroch

The Haredim see the uninterrupted continuation of Torah study and draft exemption as an existential issue. There is only black and white here, not 50 shades of grey, not even 2 shades of gray.

The entire power structure of the haredi political system is based on the complete control that the rabbis have over their flock. Once young men start serving in the army, national service, or, God forbid, work for a living – they may start getting their own ideas. 

It doesn't matter that both Bennett and Lapid were proposing gradual, moderated and meaningful plans to equalise the national burden. There is no real compromise that the haredim can agree to.  For the haredi rabbis [not necessarily their flock] the prospect of change itself is the end of the world.

Their entire system, all of their energies, are focused on keeping things as they were in the ghettos of eastern Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Bennett’s party, which includes a slew of religious Zionist rabbis, was threatening to upend the order of the world, no less.

Some leaders in the religious Zionist community are unhappy over Habayit Hayehudi chief Naftali Bennett's apparent embrace of Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid, ahead of coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rabbi Tzefania Drori, the municipal rabbi of Kiryat Shmona and a leading religious Zionist figure, issued a warning to Bennett on Monday over the issue of drafting haredim into the military.

By David M. Weinberg

The haredi draft issue is proving to be the sticking point in the current coalition negotiations. Rightfully so, because focusing on this matter is the key to ending the chokehold that ultra-Orthodox parties have had on Israeli politics and matters of religion and state for the past 20 years.

…The insufferable overflow of self-righteousness, and the hostility toward broader Israeli society, evident in haredi political behavior needs to be curbed. The haredi political juggernaut needs to be rolled back. Instead, it is time for moderate religious Zionism to reassert its place in matters of religion and state and public policy.

Bennett should not back down.

By Ari Shavit

[T]here is no practical justification for a head-on collision with the Haredim in 2013. On the contrary: We must strengthen the positive process of change they are undergoing. We must exploit their relative political weakness to reach unprecedented understandings with them. Instead of excluding Shas, we must embrace it and offer it a new covenant, one that will advance the Haredi revolution rather than turning it into a counterrevolution.

Will Shas take the lead on this issue, or will it be dragged behind the stricter Ashkenazi line on yeshiva study? Will it be able to deconstruct the Rabbi Yosef sent to President Shimon Peres last Thursday, according to which “it is necessary to conduct negotiations with utmost seriousness and find suitable solutions for full-time Torah scholars”? Shas is signaling that it is willing to talk and resolve the issue, but it’s only the start.

Joint Shas leader Eli Yishai said on Saturday night that he feels Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu prefers to form a new government without Shas.

“I don’t see a way and a possibility to conscript the Orthodox by force,” said Yishai, adding that the change would have to be gradual rather than instantaneous.

“Lapid wants a reform in one day,” he said, warning that Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, with whom Lapid has been holding talks, would also object to such over-hasty reforms.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett are coordinating their positions with the aim of advancing legislation that will equalize the military service burden.

Also, Yesh Atid is demanding the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee. The Finance Committee’s current chief is MK Moshe Gafni from United Torah Judaism. His predecessor was Yaakov Litzman, also from UTJ.

Eighty percent of the Jewish public said that they were in favor of creating a government that would promote an agenda based on civil issues, specifically freedom of religion and equality in shouldering the civic burden. Amongst Likud Beiteinu voters, 87% support a civil government and only 13% are against it. Amongst Yesh Atid voters, 99% are in support; The Tzipi Livni Party, Meretz and Labor- 100%,, and among ‘Jewish Home’, 68%. Only 38% of Shas voters support the establishment of a civil government has 39%.

The survey further asked if the public thinks that Yair Lapid should insist on a government coalition without Shas and UTJ. A majority of 54% of the Jewish public believes that Lapid should indeed work to create a government without the two Ultra-Orthodox parties, while 46% are against it. Amongst secular voters, 70% support a government without the ultra-Orthodox parties while 93% of ultra-Orthodox voters are against it.

Click here for CARTOON, CARTOON and CARTOON: "Shas doesn't like the tunes Yair Lapid is playing"

By Rachel Levmore

Exactly one year ago over one hundred Orthodox male rabbis and female Torah scholars gathered to build upon their frustration over the advancement of the ultra-Orthodox stance as the seeming representation of Orthodox Judaism in Israel. 

The group, en masse, opposes the approach of the Nationalist Haredi stream (Hardal) which has taken on many of the patterns of thought that were once considered to be the sole domain of the Haredi world.

But here is the great mystery: The semi-egalitarian synagogues, the Orthodox trend that began in the Jerusalem congregation Shira Hadasha in 2001 and in recent years has caught on in dozens of other places in Israel, from Be’er Sheva to Modi’in and Mazkeret Batya, has been unable to breach the wall of establishment Modern Orthodoxy in the United States.

By Laura Wharton

What has the supposedly rightist government of Netanyahu, about to be re-created, actually done? They have increased spending on anti-Zionist Ultra-Orthodox education while virtually liquidating all supervision of these schools.

Under the Nahari Laws, Ultra-Orthodox schools were given permission to receive funding on an equal basis to schools following the standard state curriculum; today in such Ultra-Orthodox centers as Jerusalem, ultra-Orthodox schools entirely exempted from Education Ministry supervision were even renovated with public funding.

By Rabbi Marc Angel

In 2010, 1.05 billion shekels (NIS) worth of allocations were added onto the budget, specifically for religious purposes, which is almost four times more than the budget of the Ministry of Religious Services in that same year. 

In 2011, the amount came close to NIS 850 million, of which NIS 140 million were categorized by the committee as "For Gafni Coalition Use," referring to the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism member and Chair of the Knesset Finance Committee, Moshe Gafni. 

Willing to work and no longer ready to accept a life of poverty, young Haredim are gradually warming up to the modern Orthodox and even secular segments of society - but carefully and on their own terms.

But most of those seeking a profession that provides a good living are turning to general studies like law or business administration rather than technology. General study programs are more accessible, popular and adapted for people working their way through school or attending yeshiva.

By Yehuda Shein

Once it was politically correct to disparage the Sephardics and discriminate against them under various pretexts, when the real reason of course was racism and hatred of the other's culture. Today this is no longer popular, but it is still okay to vilify haredim and discriminate against them.

By Zahava Englard

I contend that over the 2 millenium, Judaism has been hijacked and distorted into something that even Moshe Rabeinu wouldn’t recognize had he popped in for a visit today. And at the risk of being accused as arrogant by those more knowledgeable than I, I further contend that the interpretations that view women as men’s property through various practices camouflaged as halachot must go.

Tnuva Food Industries, the No. 2 advertiser to the Haredi sector, increased its ad budget by about 20% to about NIS 3.8 million in 2012, while cutting back overall ad spending by about 20% as well.

The Super-Sol supermarket chain reduced its overall ad spending by about 50% over the past two years but increased its advertising budget for the religious and Haredi communities to NIS 3.23 million, putting it in fourth place.

The "IDF Jewish Power" (Otzma Yehudit Letzahal) app enables soldiers to be up to date about Jewish matters 24 hours a day, to listen to words of Torah, and to receive IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz's weekly message on the Torah portion, information on Jewish military law, prayer, and access to the rabbinate's Website and Rabbi Peretz's Youtube postings, among other things.

The Chabad Hasidim are furious that Shefa Yamim Exploration and Mining, which is searching for diamonds near Haifa, has been using the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to promote its business.

"The Rebbe never said there are diamonds near Haifa," the organization stated: "This is just how one businessman interprets things he once said."

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

At the very least, these women are owed the respect of an apology; at most, compensation for their pain suffering if they received Depo-Provera for years and truly didn’t understand they had a choice about it.

But sadly, I fear that the frontal assault and demonization of the agencies who worked tirelessly to bring Ethiopian Jewry to Israel will lead to even stronger denials and defensiveness, which will only bolster the paranoid and hate-fueled conspiracy theories.
The victim in all this will be the truth - and once again, the Ethiopian women themselves.

By Beejhy Barhany

There should be an apology by no less than the Prime Minister, not only to Ethiopian Jews but to all Jews worldwide, that their leaders are sorry for participating in such a deplorable and inhumane act.

...Israel must act decisively to right this wrong. It must alert all women that were unknowing recipients of the drug, and provide mental and physical health support to these women and their families. It must write new laws to ensure this does not happen again — to Ethiopian Jews or any other minority group. And it should begin a state-wide campaign of education on the strengths and benefits that Ethiopian Jews contribute to Israeli society.

Orthodox Rabbi Seth Mandel returned from Uganda on Wednesday, where he helped the Putti villagers build their first eruv. He said that while they are not Jewish and do not require one, they were happy to get it and are actively interested in an Orthodox conversion.

“They don’t believe that they are a part of the Ten Tribes and they aren’t interested in moving to Israel,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

But it has not been a pitch-perfect journey for the 17-year-old, who is the latest musical phenomenon to emerge from the African Hebrew Israelite community, also known as the Black Hebrews. 

Like Ophir Ben-Shetreet, a fellow contestant who was recently suspended from her religious high school in Ashdod for singing in public, Pierce has discovered how difficult it is to achieve superstardom while trying to uphold her community's values of modesty and discretion.

A meeting Tuesday between representatives of the Vatican and Israel has brought them closer to ratifying the Fundamental Agreement governing diplomatic relations between the two states, which will establish the rights of the Catholic Church in Israel as well as regulate property and taxation issues.

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.